Landen Lucas was forced to the bench by foul trouble in the second half of a second-round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan State last March. Dwight Coleby made sure Lucas wasn't missed, contributing three points, four rebounds, a steal and a burst of feel-good energy.
Who fills that role for Kansas this coming season in the event that sophomore Udoka Azubuike has to buy time on the bench nursing foul trouble in a second-round tourney game?
Better question: Might Coleby have been talked into staying if William & Mary transfer Jack Whitman had never come to Kansas as a graduate transfer? We'll never know the answer to that but do know that Coleby will play for Western Kentucky and Whitman won't play for Kansas, having quit the team without making it through the summer, thus forgoing an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy. Even Evan Maxwell, a Liberty transfer who was in the Kansas program from May to December of last year, lasted longer than that. Maxwell will suit up for Illinois Wesleyan this coming season.
Highly skilled freshman Billy Preston, who considers himself a point forward at heart, has the second-biggest body on the KU roster at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, smaller only than Azubuike, who checks in at 7-foot, 280. After that, Mitch Lightfoot (6-8, 210 and counting) and Svi Mykhailiuk (6-8, 205) stand the tallest and weigh the most. Lightfoot brings enough toughness to battle bigger bodies and wants to be 225 by the start of the season. Svi is a perimeter player who attempted 176 3-pointers and 104 2-pointers last season. He averaged three rebounds in 27.3 minutes and isn't a natural fit to defend any of the five positions.
KU still has a scholarship available. The best-case scenario has Marvin Bagley III, a 6-10, 220-pound potential overall No. 1 NBA draft pick, filling it, but that's considered a long shot at this point for a number of reasons. First, Bagley would have to successfully reclassify from the Class of 2018. Second, he would have to choose Kansas. Most who follow recruiting closely seem to think Duke is at the top of his list. Bagley has visited Duke and reportedly has visits scheduled with Arizona and USC. Kentucky, UCLA and Kansas also are on his list.
Barring landing Bagley, the next-best outcome lies in recruiting a reserve post player from junior college or a graduate transfer. At this point, most if not all of those prospects have committed elsewhere.
Azubuike's injury last season caused Josh Jackson to play out of position. A natural small forward, he thrived at power forward, stayed in the moment and trained his focus on winning. Most one-and-done talents have an eye on auditioning. He didn't. If Preston is needed to play on the block more than anticipated, can he keep his eye glued on winning as well as Jackson did?
Agile, quick, a strong ballhandler and blessed with a soft shooting touch and ideal basketball physique, Preston will have ample opportunity to show his perimeter skills when Azubuike is on the floor with him. When Azubuike sits and Preston is most needed inside, NBA scouts will take note of what's inside him by studying whether at those moments he does what's best for the team or what he perceives as what's best for his draft stock. It's not easy convincing teenagers that acting in the team's best interests does more to impress the scouts.
The answer to whether Preston can take the unselfish path chosen by Jackson will go a long way toward determining just how much Kansas will miss Coleby, who averaged 1.5 points and 1.8 rebounds and left for a place where his role will expand considerably.
New Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley received advice from, among others, David Beaty on how to make the transition from assistant coach to top dog.
“The phrase I shared with him was these next few days will be like drinking from a fire hose,” Beaty said. “If you’re not careful, you’ll drown. So you do have to go be a normal person. I know you’ve got a lot to do right now, but believe it or not, you’ll be better with less if you’ll go and grant yourself that vacation because the time just won’t be there.”
It’s not the only area where Beaty learned during his first two seasons that less can mean more. He’s also applying that philosophy to his involvement with the offense.
In his first season as head coach, Beaty was very involved in trying to get offensive coordinator Rob Likens to implement his version of the Air Raid offense. It never happened, so Beaty demoted Likens and took over OC and quarterback coaching duties and then also took on coaching the punt return team early in his second season on the job.
Now that veteran OC Doug Meacham is on board, Beaty said his days as a helicopter hovering over the offense have ended.
“One of the positives about bringing Meach here it allows me to do more of the head-coaching stuff rather than having to do both,” Beaty said. “Now, it’s being done throughout the country and it’s being done at a high level. Ideally, though, if you have a guy who knows what you want to do and he knows it as well as he knows it, then that’s ideal. And he just happens to be one of the best in the world at what he does. So it’s a big-time bonus for us.”
Beaty has done a terrific job at promoting the program, developing relationships with key boosters and in general spreading good will, all important facets of a head coach’s job as face of a major rebuilding project.
“My schedule will change a little bit in that I’m not going to hover over him,” Beaty said. “I don’t have to. I mean, Doug Meacham has done it. I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that I know more and am better than Doug. Offensively, his record and the things that he’s done speak for themselves. Why wouldn’t I trust that man?”
Beaty’s not the only Big 12 head coach surrendering play-calling duties this season. Seventh-year West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen won’t be calling plays for the first time. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, back on Holgorsen’s staff for the first time since 2012 when he was quarterbacks coach, takes over that responsibility.
In case you’re wondering whatever became of the Gonzalez twins, Dakota and Dylan, after the transferred from Kansas to UNLV to continue their women’s basketball careers, they have moved on again, this time taking a different path to fame.
The twins bypassed their fifth, and final, year of college eligibility, graduated and embarked on a music career.
The much photographed and photogenic twins who have nearly two million followers on their joint Instagram account, didn’t stand out much from most Big 12 freshmen trying to find their way in a competitive conference during their time at Kansas.
Their careers took off once they hit Vegas. Dakota led UNLV in scoring in both of her seasons there, averaging 13.8 and 13.3 points, and Dylan averaged 5.4 and 9.9 points in her two seasons in the desert.
They have been celebrities since their high school days and drew curiosity seekers to their games, including rapper Drake.
The twins, rhythm and blues artists, have released their first EP, “Take 1,” on SoundCloud. In an interview that can be found at slamonline.com, they cited frustration with NCAA rules that restricted what they could do with their music careers as the driving force behind foregoing the 2017-18 season.
Dylan told slamonline.com that dealing with “ticky-tack regulations . . . became so stressful.”
She added: “Playing a collegiate sport is a job that you don’t get paid for like a job. If you’re trying to build a foundation for yourself in another avenue, it’s nearly impossible because you don’t have the time to do it, nor are you allowed to do it.”
Dakota said that being a student-athlete under the NCAA’s umbrella is tougher than most believe.
“To be very blunt, a lot of people don’t see the behind-the-scenes type of actions that go along with it,” she told slamonline.com. “People always ask why no one has spoken out if it is such a big problem. . . . Let’s say you have a job and are working to survive, why would you go start slandering your boss? So you can get fired or have some consequence come your way? You’re just not going to do that.”
As a freshman in 2013-14 at Kansas, Dakota averaged 4.4 points in 17.3 minutes and appeared in 30 games, making four starts. Dylan appeared in nine games, played 25 minutes and scored 10 points.
Somebody must have slipped something into former Missouri chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s tea for him to be foolish enough to get into a tongue fight with an elite college basketball coach.
Full disclosure: I absolutely love that Loftin picked a fight with Kansas basketball coach Bill Self because the Border Cold War had faded into obscurity and lacked fresh tension. It needed a signature moment to put people on edge and Loftin provided. I just can’t imagine why Loftin thought he could step into the ring with a man who makes such a handsome living because he knows exactly what to say and when to say it.
As do all the top-shelf college basketball coaches, Self knows what to say in a recruit’s living room, flashing just the right amount of Southern charm, mixed with the proper dose of gravity to discuss the athlete’s financial future as an impending NBA star, and a quick wit that leaves them laughing.
He knows just what to say to a new arrival who makes the mistake of shifting into cruise control in an early season practice and it’s quite a different one than the message he delivers in a pregame talk before the team takes the floor for a Final Four game after he leaves his players with no doubt that he doesn’t have a shred of doubt that they will win the game.
Great college basketball coaches are great communicators. They love to get into a war of words because they so seldom do anything but crush their opponents.
Predictably, Self knocked the elbow patches right off Loftin’s tweed jacket and needed only one of his many communication tools to drop him flat on his back in the middle of the ring. All Self needed was humor to score the one-punch knockout.
Loftin blamed Self for not resuming the Kansas-Missouri football games at Arrowhead Stadium. “The problem was a man named Bill Self, who made it very clear this wasn’t going to happen,” Loftin told AL.com.
Missouri and Texas A&M bolted to the SEC, abaondoing the Big 12, which spelled the end to their big rivalries. The Texas and Texas A&M rivalry also is on hold.
Read for the first time or re-read Loftin’s quote on those rivalries and then I have a question for you: “I think it’s more likely Texas will bend than Kansas as long as Self is involved. He has a big ego.”
When reading that did you also picture Loftin boasting to his friends at the Mensa Club meeting? You know, something along the lines of, “And then I said . . .”
If only Loftin had thought to compare paychecks before taking on the basketball coach of a perennial powerhouse. Loftin made $337,500 as chancellor of Missouri in 2016. Self makes $5 million. He should have taken on someone more on his pay grade, someone like a nuclear physicist or a world leader.
Self stood up, did a couple of quick stretches and scored a one-punch knockout with three quick sentences to the Journal-World's Matt Tait: "Tell the ex-chancellor I coach basketball, not football, and that we would never play a game in Arrowhead or even discuss it. It's too cold. We play our games indoors."
Loftin brought a Bic spitball shooter to a nuclear war and because of his lack of wisdom, the Border Cold War bubbled to the surface.
Thank you, chancellor!
Five players who will prove they are better than the positions at which they were drafted:
Josh Jackson, Kansas (fourth): He had a hand in dropping by not working out with the Celtics and there was a reason for that. He’s a perfect fit, the defensive dynamo the Suns needed to change their culture.
Malik Monk, Kentucky (11th): A freakish athlete who does a great job of moving without the ball and is a natural scorer who can get really hot from the outside and score from everywhere and he lasts until the 11th pick? Absurd.
Jarrett Allen, Texas (22nd): Smart, good hands, great shooting touch, and has plenty of room for his body to expand.
Frank Mason, Kansas (34th): Don’t forget, Boston Celtics short superstar Isaiah Thomas was the last pick of the draft when he came out of Washington. Mason doesn’t play short.
Semi Ojeleye, SMU (37th): He has an NBA body already, a soft shooting touch with range and he’s super smart, so he’ll figure out how to make himself a player the coach wants to have on the floor and he’ll figure it out in a hurry. Great pick.
Now that the Sixers moved into the No. 1 slot of the NBA draft and the Lakers reportedly traded their point guard, D’Angelo Russell, clearing the way to select a point guard (Lonzo Ball or De’Aaron Fox) with the No. 2 pick, all the intrigue shifts to the Celtics and what they will do with the No. 3 pick.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens are of like mind in that they put a premium on intense, defensive-minded competitors. Nobody in the draft fits that type better than Josh Jackson.
Ainge fueled the Jackson-to-the-Celtics speculation by saying, “There is a good chance the player we take at No. 3 will be the exact player we would have taken at No. 1.”
But Jackson apparently doesn’t want to become a Celtic and reportedly has refused to work out for the organization without an assurance that he will be chosen by them and not traded. But why would the Celtics, or any team for that matter, make any such assurance to any player?
Duke’s Jayson Tatum has worked out for the Celtics, which leads some to believe that since he wants to go there and Jackson apparently does not, the Celtics might just take Tatum. Not buying that. Jackson’s a great defender and Tatum’s lateral quickness could prevent him from ever developing into an even average defender.
Should the Celtics decide to deal the pick, no shortage of franchises interested in Jackson would make offers. The Kings hold the fifth and 10th selections.
The Knicks and Bulls reportedly are high on Jackson.
The Knicks reportedly would entertain trade offers for Kristaps Porzingas, the Bulls for Jimmy Butler.
The most intriguing team in the draft at this point is the Celtics, the most intriguing player Jackson. It would come as a bit of a surprise if the Celtics don't select Jackson, whether to keep him or trade him.
My only question regarding Josh Jackson’s since-deleted, late-night tweet seemingly aimed at projected No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz is why delete the tweet?
It read: “lol anybody with the smallest bit of talent can look good and lose it’s not that hard”.
It serves as a reminder that Jackson knows the best trait a basketball player can bring to a basketball game is a winning trait. He brings it to every possession and that’s why he, as a whole, is a greater prospect than the impressive sum of his parts.
Still, most mock drafts have Jackson going either to the Celtics with the third pick — assuming the trade that gives the 76ers the first pick is finalized — or to the Suns with the fourth pick.
My guess: Jackson will become a Laker, the decision made by fellow native of Michigan, all-time great point guard Magic Johnson, another basketball player who forever put winning first. Magic tried to get Jackson to go to Michigan State out of high school and no doubt sees a little of himself in the versatile 6-foot-8 prospect when Jackson shows great court vision in finding a teammate and zipping a pass through a small window, a little bit of James Worthy when Jackson slams a one-handed dunk in transition, a little bit of Michael Cooper when Jackson locks down his man.
UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, another terrific prospect, has been a mainstay at the No. 2 spot in mock drafts for a long, long time. Jackson’s the superior defender and is even more versatile than Ball. Selecting Jackson would give the Lakers an extremely young perimeter trio that could grow together and flourish once a strong frontcourt is assembled.
Point guard D’Angelo Russell, a two-year veteran out of Ohio State, is 21. Jackson is 20. Wing Brandon Ingram, entering his second season with the Lakers, is 19.
He moved from Kansas City to Tucson, Ariz., when he was 5, but he grew up in a household loyal to Kansas basketball, so wearing the jersey means a lot to sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot.
Given the makeup of the coming season’s roster, his presence means a lot to Kansas basketball, so the feeling’s mutual.
In introducing Lightfoot to campers before Wednesday’s scrimmage, KU coach Bill Self said Lightfoot would play a “huge, huge role” for the Jayhawks this coming season.
Lightfoot heard Self say that and processed the words at a couple of levels.
“So the Kansas side of me, the little kid growing up in Kansas, that kind of gives you butterflies and stuff like that. You feel excited,” Lightfoot said. “But the Kansas basketball player side of me knows that’s what I have to do and that’s what I came here to do and it’s just another step in the process of getting better and becoming a bigger part of this team and helping us win some games.”
In order to do that, Lightfoot knows his game and body must expand from last season. He’s doing that by “working in the weight room, working on the court, working on my jump shot, stuff like that.”
Lightfoot has been spending quality time in the weight room run by strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy.
“Right now I’m 216, 217 (pounds),” Lightfoot said. “By the time the season rolls around I’d like to be in the 223, 224 area, get up around there. Anywhere in the 225 area I’d be happy with. Last year I played at 210, 209. That’s not a Big 12 big man four-man, so eating and lifting with coach Hudy has been big for me.”
Lightfoot feels himself getting stronger, more flexible all the time.
“Last year coming in you get hit and it takes you a couple of seconds to recalibrate and go up again, but now with all the lifting we’re doing, the mobility stuff, we get hit, hit the ground, you go back up,” he said. “So the big thing for me is getting bigger, getting stronger, more body control, stuff like that.”
Strength can be a factor in expanding a player's shooting range, as can putting up more 3-pointers in practice.
“In talking to coach after the season I’m going to have to be able to stretch the floor. As a stretch four that will be part of my game," Lightfoot said. "I also have to be able to guard big guys, like I was guarding Udoka (Azubuike). I’ve got to be able to do both.”
Playing basketball for Kansas means a lot to Lightfoot, who isn't going to cheat himself of playing time by slacking off in any area.
It’s cooler than Cindy Crawford’s Pepsi commercial, better than Mean Joe Greene’s Coca Cola commercial, more memorable than Larry Bird and Michael Jordan shooting h-o-r-s-e, tougher to shake than the Alka Seltzer plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is jingle.
It’ll cure your Excedrin Headache No. 39, saving you the trouble of swallowing pills.
If not for that fried-egg spot — “This is your brain . . . this is your brain on drugs” — it would rank as the greatest commercial ever filmed.
It’s a Foot Locker “Father’s Day” advertisement and it’s so much more than that. It’s a brilliant marketing scheme that is bound to get UCLA one-and-done sensation Lonzo Ball the fair shake he deserves in next week’s compelling NBA draft. It gives him the separation from his father he so needs and just in the nick of time.
Lavar Ball has attempted to turn his oldest son into a piece of merchandise to be manipulated however he sees fit.
The sane son fights back in a brilliant Father’s Day commercial featuring four one-and-done players expected to go among the first seven picks in next Thursday’s draft. Jonathan Isaac (Florida State), De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky), Jayson Tatum (Duke) and Ball appear in it. Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Washington’s Markelle Fultz and Kentucky’s Malik Monk, also projected to go early in the draft, are not in the commercial.
Isaac, Fox and Tatum share quick thoughts on memories of their fathers.
“All those games of one-on-one in the driveway where he’d let me win,” Fox says with a smile.
An appreciative Tatum says, “Just never missing a game.”
And then Lonzo Ball bleeds painful memories: “Of course there’s that big day when your dad berates your high school coach in front of an entire crowd for not getting you enough touches.”
Said Isaac: “Waking up early to drive to far-away tournaments.”
Then Ball: “Or that special moment when your dad sits you down and tells you where you’re going to college, copyrights your name to make it part of a family lifestyle brand, went on First Take and shouted back and forth with Stephen A. Smith about how you’re already better than the reigning league MVP. All those interviews from the stands during college games. The public spats with the all-time greats. Sound byte after sound byte to the national media. And then tells 29 out of 30 teams to not bother drafting you.”
Nice chin music. I hope every overbearing sports dad sees that commercial and sees himself in it. Better chance of winning the lottery on back-to-back weeks.
Foot Locker released a statement quoting Lonzo as saying, “My dad and I both love the humor of the spot, and I’m glad I got to have a little fun around the topic before going to the league.”
I thought I read a little pain in Lonzo’s expression, but maybe that was just the power of suggestion. Either way, Lonzo speaks far more loudly and my guess would be more from the heart in the commercial than in the corporate statement.
It was impressive of a 19-year-old to lay it all out there for the world to see and hear, no matter whose idea it was. No denial. No walking on eggshells around the issue of the dad. If Lonzo’s agent thought this up, give the man a standing ovation. Nothing could do a more effective job of shrinking concerns that drafting the son means drafting the father too.
Oddsmakers and mock draft makers are in lockstep on which one-and-done talent will go first in the NBA draft.
Sportsbettingdime.com set odds to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft as: Markelle Fultz (Washington): 1/5, Lonzo Ball (UCLA): 7/1 and the field 19/1.
Shocking that a wager on the field would pay 19/1. That means that if KU’s Josh Jackson, Duke’s Jayson Tatum or either of Kentucky’s vastly different but equally intriguing guards De’Aaron Fox or Malik Monk were to go No. 1 it would pay 19/1.
I’d be tempted to take what’s defined as the field here against Fultz straight-up.
The website also released an over/under draft position for the six one-and-done prospects: Fultz: 1.5, Ball 2, Jackson 3.5, Tatum 4, Fox 4.5, Monk 5.5. Jackson, Fox and Monk are the smartest plays there, although Fultz at 1.5 isn’t bad since most believe he’ll be the first selection. The funniest proposition the board is the over/under for the number of Big Baller Brand Z02s sold before the start of the NBA draft: 950.5.
Those are the basketball shoes being marketed by Lavar Ball, father of Lonzo Ball.
If that seems high for a shoe that ranges from $495 to $695 for the Z02: PRIME and anywhere from $995 to $1,195 for Z02: WET - ‘THE AUTOGRAPH,’ keep in mind that they could become collector’s items for the filthy rich who might view them as investments that will appreciate because fewer than 1,000 pairs of shoes will be in circulation.
Sometimes the super rich like to scream, “I’m rich,” without using those words. What better way than to show friends a pair of the most expensive sneakers in history, better yet shoes talked about on SportsCenter.